ze·​ro | \ ˈzē-(ˌ)rō How to pronounce zero (audio) , ˈzir-(ˌ)ō\
plural zeros also zeroes

Definition of zero

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1a : the arithmetical symbol 0 or 0̸ denoting the absence of all magnitude or quantity
b : additive identity specifically : the number between the set of all negative numbers and the set of all positive numbers
c : a value of an independent variable that makes a function equal to zero +2 and −2 are zeros of f(x)=x2−4
2 : the absence of a measurable quantity — see Table of Numbers
3a(1) : the point of departure in reckoning specifically : the point from which the graduation of a scale (as of a thermometer) begins
(2) : the temperature represented by the zero mark on a thermometer
b : the setting or adjustment of the sights of a firearm that causes it to shoot to point of aim at a desired range
4 : an insignificant person or thing : nonentity
5a : a state of total absence or neutrality
b : the lowest point : nadir
6 : something arbitrarily or conveniently designated zero

Definition of zero (Entry 2 of 3)

1a : of, relating to, or being a zero
b : having no magnitude or quantity : not any zero growth zero tolerance
c(1) : having no phonetic manifestation the zero modification in the past tense of cut
(2) : having no modified inflectional form a zero plural
2a of a cloud ceiling : limiting vision to 50 feet (15 meters) or less
b of horizontal visibility : limited to 165 feet (50.3 meters) or less


zeroed; zeroing; zeroes

Definition of zero (Entry 3 of 3)

transitive verb

1 : to determine or adjust the zero of zero a rifle
2a : to concentrate firepower on the exact range of usually used with in
b : to bring to bear on the exact range of a target usually used with in

intransitive verb

1 : to adjust fire on a specific target usually used with in
2 : to close in on or focus attention on an objective usually used with ininvestigators are zeroing in on a suspect

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Synonyms for zero

Synonyms: Noun

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Examples of zero in a Sentence

Noun Two minus two equals zero. It's supposed to fall below zero tonight. The temperature is 10° above zero. They are working to reduce the mortality rate to zero.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Everything starts with a computer, a device already designed to take bits of zeroes and ones and converting them into pixels on a screen so humans can understand the information. Tim Newcomb, Popular Mechanics, "How the Internet Works: The 7 Steps It Took To Read This Article," 29 Oct. 2019 The language that classical computers speak is all about manipulating strings of zeros and ones, but the language of quantum physics is quite different. Deborah Netburn, Los Angeles Times, "Q&A: Google claims ‘quantum supremacy.’ What could that mean for the future of computing?," 23 Oct. 2019 As the the clock hits zeroes and the Niners are all sliding over the field. oregonlive, "Watch: San Francisco 49ers’ ‘Slip-and-Slide’ celebration irks Washington," 22 Oct. 2019 Feeding the addiction becomes even more challenging in a top-heavy economy where the price tags of the status symbols keep adding zeros. Alex Williams, New York Times, "Why Don’t Rich People Just Stop Working?," 18 Oct. 2019 The Internet may be composed of zeros and ones, but U.S. officials are struggling to quantify the value of digital activities and integrate those numbers into public policy. Washington Post, "What you do on the Internet is worth a lot. Exactly how much, nobody knows.," 14 Oct. 2019 Lisa Henson told the streamer to start adding zeroes to the budget. Wired, "Netflix Re-Ups the Puppetry—and Perturbations—of Dark Crystal," 30 Aug. 2019 How would people react upon learning that our world and thoughts and emotions are nothing more than a programmer’s zeroes and ones? Dan Falk, NBC News, "Are we living in a simulated universe? Here's what scientists say.," 6 July 2019 Why bitcoin needs so much power Even though bitcoin solely exists in digital zeroes and ones, the computers that run the network are huge energy hogs. Umair Irfan, Vox, "A new report claims bitcoin is mostly powered by renewable energy. Really?," 18 June 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective There is a decidedly non-zero possibility that the federal government will shut down on Friday night. Sy Mukherjee, Fortune, "Brainstorm Health: Human CRISPR Trials, Hospital Run Drug Company, CHIP Extension," 18 Jan. 2018 Davis has played in just 13 NFL games, made zero appearances last year, and posted a passer rating of 66.2 in his three performances with the Browns in 2015. Matt Calkins, The Seattle Times, "Criticize Colin Kaepernick? Fine. But don’t withhold a job from him," 5 June 2017 There’s absolutely zero evidence that dogs or cats can contract or transmit the virus. Patty Khuly, miamiherald, "Should I worry that my dog or cat will get Zika?," 10 May 2017 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The committee sent a similarly detailed request to Facebook (FB), zeroing in on its relationship to Onavo, a data analysis firm that the social media giant bought in 2013. Brian Fung, CNN, "House antitrust probe of Big Tech seeks documents from Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google," 13 Sep. 2019 Alabama prison officials have zeroed in on the buildings themselves. al, "Alabama prisons: What we don’t see is what we’ll get — and pay for," 5 Sep. 2019 Then the acupressure massage began, with Barna rubbing my neck and jaw — zeroing in on the jaw muscle with ferocity — before shifting into light pinching motions up the sides of my mouth and cheeks. Melinda Fulmer, Los Angeles Times, "Skin Camp: Where your face goes to get rejuvenated over summer vacation," 23 Aug. 2019 Andy Stasio made his escape from the pizza industry in 1980 as the Hunts zeroed in on oil and sugar. Sarah Hui, Dallas News, "Why did Shakey’s, once Dallas’ most popular pizza joint, close? Curious Texas investigates," 31 July 2019 Exhibits include depictions and passages from literature and letters about frozen desserts, eventually zeroing in on Italy as the birthplace of gelato—where, in the 17th century, the first machine for making gelato was invented. Naomi Tomky, Fortune, "How to Get a Degree in Gelato," 22 June 2019 The Times noted that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. is zeroing in on the $130,000 that Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer paid Daniels prior to the election. Breanna Edwards, Essence, "Manhattan District Attorney's Office Subpoenas 8 Years Of Trump's Tax Returns," 17 Sep. 2019 The company gets nearly 70% of its sales from men’s bottoms, and has in recent years zeroed in on women as a clear opportunity for growth. Marc Bain, Quartzy, "Levi’s is making bank on high-rise jeans and jorts," 10 July 2019 Experts said that number signals that prosecutors have zeroed in on their strongest cases with the most corroborating evidence. Alene Tchekmedyian,, "Prosecutors face challenges as they move to prove Tyndall allegations, experts say," 2 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'zero.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of zero


1598, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1821, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1911, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for zero


French or Italian; French zéro, from Italian zero, from Medieval Latin zephirum, from Arabic ṣifr

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Learn More about zero

Statistics for zero

Last Updated

16 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for zero

The first known use of zero was in 1598

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More Definitions for zero


How to pronounce zero (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of zero

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: the number 0
: the temperature shown by the zero mark on a thermometer
: nothing at all

English Language Learners Definition of zero (Entry 2 of 3)

: not any



English Language Learners Definition of zero (Entry 3 of 3)

technical : to set (a measuring device, such as a scale) so that it reads 0


ze·​ro | \ ˈzē-rō How to pronounce zero (audio) , ˈzir-ō\
plural zeros or zeroes

Kids Definition of zero

1 : the numerical symbol 0 meaning the absence of all size or quantity
2 : the point on a scale (as on a thermometer) from which measurements are made
3 : the temperature shown by the zero mark on a thermometer
4 : a total lack of anything : nothing His contribution was zero.


ze·​ro | \ ˈzē-(ˌ)rō How to pronounce zero (audio) , ˈzi(ə)r-(ˌ)ō How to pronounce zero (audio) \
plural zeros also zeroes

Medical Definition of zero

1 : the arithmetical symbol 0 or 0̸ denoting the absence of all magnitude or quantity
2a : the point of departure in reckoning specifically : the point from which the graduation of a scale (as of a thermometer) begins
b : the temperature represented by the zero mark on a thermometer

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More from Merriam-Webster on zero

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for zero

Spanish Central: Translation of zero

Nglish: Translation of zero for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of zero for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about zero

Comments on zero

What made you want to look up zero? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


meddlesome, informal, or unofficial

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